Offseason Adjustments- Forwards
Welcome to Part II of my segment on the Knicks offseason of optimism. The Knicks have several major decisions to make at both forwards positions. These decisions will affect the franchise over the course of the next four to five years and will be pivotal to their success.
Current Small Forwards
Currently, we have only two true small forwards, R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox. Barrett, the neophyte who took a quantum leap in year two, has shown a lot of promise. Knox, on the contrary, has regressed over the last year. Barrett, will most likely continue to remain the starter at the small forward position will hopefully continue to grow upon the progress he made. Knox will most likely be traded or remain a fixture on the bench.
Current Power Forwards
At power forward the Knicks feature their star player in Most Improved Player of the Year Julius Randle. Randle, coming off a disappointing playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks is eligible for a four-year 106-million-dollar extension. As to whether Knicks brass decides to extend him is still up in the air. Many Knicks fans feel he should be dealt while his value is at an all-time high. I personally feel Randle will continue to grow and come back next year even more determined. The man showed us all year long why he earned this contract, and he deserves to be paid.
Taj Gibson also deserves another contract. Albeit his age, Gibson has consistently shown toughness and grit at the forward and center position. Considering he already has an excellent rapport with coach Thibodeau and can give the Knicks great energy in short bursts, I see no reason he should not be signed for another year at the veteran’s minimum.
Obi Toppin presents an interesting conundrum, although he showed incredible potential in his first playoff series versus the Hawks, Toppin is something of a mismatched puzzle piece for this organization. Toppin is an incredible athlete who can score in bursts. Originally, he was drafted under the assumption that he would be a potential leader for this team and Julius Randle would be dealt with. Now Toppin finds himself in the same shoes that Randle was in this past offseason. If an adequate suitor is found that would net the Knicks something valuable in return, management should consider moving Toppin. Otherwise, he needs to put in some time this summer into working on his release so he can be a more effective shooter.
Offseason Big Name Targets- Forwards
The market features very few big-name targets when it comes to forwards the main target I feel the Knicks need to focus on is Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is by far the biggest splash the Knicks could make assuming we were to sign him. The only downside with Leonard is if he did tear his ACL. The Clippers organization has been suspiciously quiet about his status since he went down. Leonard has a pattern for taking his time to recover from an injury and could potentially sit out several back-to-backs even upon his return. The status of his injury is still unknown. Knicks brass needs to tread carefully here. Odds of landing Leonard: 6/10.
The next major free-agent forward who will be on the market is John Collins. Collins is a major step down from Leonard and would be nothing more than a consolation if we were to move Randle and need help at the power forward spot. Collins does not fit the mold of a Thibodeau player. He is not the best on the defensive end and does not play solid help defense either. Odds of landing Collins: 1/10.
Realistic Offseason Targets- Forwards
When looking at the forwards on the market there are a few I believe would be excellent additions to this roster. Namely, some veterans would mentor our youth and still have the energy and versatility to help off the bench in a pinch.
My personal favorite target of the bunch of Norman Powell. Powell brings a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball but will most likely demand close to a max contract this offseason. With a 6’7 wingspan, Powell boasted a defensive rating of 106.2 last season and created a lot of havoc for opponents. Not to mention, he’s become something of a three-point marksman hitting the three-ball at a rate of 41% last season. If the Knicks were to swing and miss on Leonard, and Portland were to let Powell walk, the Knicks could potentially have their small forward of the future for the right price. Odds of landing Powell 6/10.
Another solid target is veteran Nicholas Batum. I think Batum is a gadget guy who can come off the bench or even start when needed. He brings a litany of different weapons from his defensive acuity to his ability to create on the offensive end of the ball. Watching what he has done to help the Clippers speaks volumes about his talent. Odds of landing Batum 5/10.
Another interesting target if we failed to land Powell or Batum is Trevor Ariza. Although Ariza is older than both Batum and Powell, he still can contribute, and he proved it this season. Ariza is your prototypical three and D veteran. He does not have to play every game to influence your team and will come at a reasonable price tag as well. He started his career in New York and I would love to see him finish up here with a title. Odds of landing Ariza: 4/10.
Lastly, if we fail to land any of the other free agents, there is always Doug McDermott. McDermott, a forward who can score at will from long range and can get to the basket, was a key part of the Pacers’ offense last year. McDermott over the last couple of years has become a robust defender and would fit in well off the bench here in New York. Odds of landing McDermott 3/10.
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